Full Throttle Dealers Share Strategies


Too much inventory, high interest rates and low-price imports topped the concerns of dealership owners and managers at a roundtable forum Friday to share general challenges and best practices.

Show organizer Advanstar Communications hosted reps from 17 "Full Throttle" dealerships, Expo attendees with the highest annual sales volumes. Sales and service trainer Dave Koshollek led the discussion of issues dealers face and problem-solving strategies.

Weird weather caught several Midwestern dealers off guard. Some reported too little snow early in the season to drive snowmobile sales, then too much of the white stuff later on, bogging down dirtbike sales. Dealers have more options for responding to other common challenges. Some of those strategies follow:

Challenge: A couple of dealers reported that Suzuki had shipped them unordered bikes, then threatened to take away their entire allotment if they did not buy them. Polaris dealers have long reported similar practices. "Dictatorial OEMs" were a complaint in general. Challenge: Access to off-road riding areas and the sound and liability issues surrounding them. A few dealers listed as their No. 1 concern.

Strategy: Work for strong state dealer associations, coalitions and co-ops. California, Florida, Ohio and Texas dealers reported already having strong state associations and franchise laws. Dealer associations can also lobby for industry-friendly noise and liability standards.

Challenge: Competition from Internet discounters and low-price imports.

Strategy: Stock big so that customers can buy the desired product in the right size and color immediately. A few dealers said big-box retailers (Pep Boys, Costco, etc.) may be reaching a broader audience that might never have entered a dealership. When the cheap stuff craps out, sales teams have an opportunity to sell customer better vehicles if they focus pitches on quality and durability.

Challenge: Finding quality employees in both service and sales and making sure they work well together (i.e., dealing with the "That?s not my job!" syndrome).

Strategies: Dealership University won praise for training, and dealers want expanded offerings. Also mentioned were RPM Group and MMI. Some dealers invest heavily in training, others think it's too risky given that employees may leave. Some train only their managers. Dealers also want more product training from OEMs.

Seek opinions from staff to help ensure the entire team works together. To help retain employees, make sure they see a clear path for advancement and increased pay. Use mystery shoppers to measure staff quality control.

Hire more women. They often make better salespeople (especially when selling to their own sex) and improve the morale of the whole store.

&#8212 Arlo Redwine